Hiring Manager

Improving Engineering Interviews – Ideas for Team Leads

Here’s what you need to consider to revamp Engineering Interviews and to strive towards standardizing the interview process that produces better outcomes for both you and the candidates.
Apr 4, 2022

Nobody likes technical interviews. They are exceedingly flawed, unstructured, often biased, and, as studies have shown us, tend to favor candidates who perform well under pressure over highly qualified engineers who may occasionally suffer from performance anxiety.

And it’s not just the job seekers who despise being put in a room with a whiteboard/IDE, having to demonstrate their problem-solving abilities and coding skills in real time under the watchful eye of an interviewer. 

Hiring managers and engineering leads are not huge fans of the whiteboarding sessions either. They often grumble about technical interviews taking up too much of their time, distracting them from their actual work, producing inconsistent results, and slowing down the hiring process. 

Many hiring managers even admit to being partial to specific groups or graduates from particular programs (almost all tech managers who selected candidates who completed coding bootcamps said they would hire similar graduates again).

Yet, there’s a very real developer shortage, and companies across all industries are scrambling to fill open positions with the right talent. And as much as everyone is frustrated with them, technical interviews remain the best way to evaluate the candidates’ potential to perform a specific job. 

At BarRaiser, we analyzed responses from 20,000+ candidates who had the pleasure (or maybe torment…) of participating in recent technical interviews with our experts, and based on their responses, put together a short list of suggestions that would hopefully make the hiring experience a bit easier, more enjoyable, and more productive and rewarding for people on both sides of the process.

  1.  Set and communicate clear expectations. Help candidates prepare for their interviews and create consistency for everyone on the interviewing team. Create a list of skills that are specific for the role and the team and classify them as “must haves” vs. “nice to haves”.
    Think of the core requirements for the job and tailor your assessment of a candidate based on which tools and techniques they will be using the most in real-life situations.
  2. Create a structure to your assessment and stick to it. Although you are testing a person’s technical skills, you are also evaluating their problem-solving abilities, creativity, communication skills and how they will fit into the culture and vibe of your team.
    Whether your company’s interview process takes 4 hours like Google or a full day like Uber, make sure you stick to the structure to have time to look at all important aspects of the candidate’s character and abilities.
  3. Help the candidate succeed by letting them know in advance what’s expected of them. Some companies go as far as mapping out the whole engineering interview guide.
    But even if you want to leave room for spontaneity, you will make the process go a whole lot smoother if the candidate feels like they understand what they need to prepare for and know your company’s philosophy and requirements in advance.
  4. Provide feedback for both candidates and the interviewers on your team. Job candidates will appreciate your honesty – whether they wowed you or the interview didn’t go as well as expected.
    Be specific, provide feedback for each of the key points, rather than the general list of highlights and disappointments. And don’t forget to loop back with the interviewers on your team.
    How well did they follow the conversation structure? Did they assess the skills based on agreed upon scale? Having a recording of a technical interview will help you revisit the points you may have missed and can be a powerful coaching aid to improve the process going forward.
  5. Ask the candidates for their feedback. As many as 97% of engineers report that the interview process is broken, with nearly half saying that they are likely to turn down the job after being quizzed by someone who doesn’t have a good understanding of the role or the technology.
    Tech leads can learn a great deal from gathering feedback from the engineers they interview to see where they can do better.
  6. The chief complaint among engineers looking for the job is having too many interviews. So, keep it simple – there’s no reason to bring in the whole group to interrogate a single candidate, when just a couple of people (four at the most, based on our experience) can provide a thorough assessment of all types of skills – technical, soft, communication – and determine if a person is a good fit.
  7. Tell them if they are hired or not. Nothing discourages people more than long delays, or worse – being ghosted by their prospective employers.
    Always communicate the outcome and provide specifics. Candidates routinely check sources like Glassdoor to glimpse companies’ interviewing process, and even if they don’t get a job, you want them to see your hiring process as fair and transparent.

At BarRaiser, we believe in using data to understand what’s broken and how we can improve it. Every day, our experts conduct hundreds of technical interviews across multiple industries, and we closely monitor and analyze the process to come up with recommendations for hiring managers and technical leads.